We are always told to follow shampooing our hair with conditioner. Certainly hair behaves differently if we don’t use it but why? What is in all these conditioning choices that makes them unique? How does one know what to choose?
Decisions about which conditioner to use is based on various qualities of your type of hair and what you are trying to accomplish. Conditioners fall in to three basic groups:
• Oil/moisture replacers: Shampooing removes moisture and oil from our hair. Moisturizers in conditioner come in the form of concentrated humectants. These types of conditioners are good for those with dry, curly, frizzy or coarse hair. Humectants in conditioners have names such as cetyl or stearyl alcohol, panthenol, silicone or other “cone” ending names along with other essential oils.
Oil based conditioners contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) and are intended to act like the natural sebum oil your scalp produces. These are important for use on color-treated or extremely dry hair.
• Reconstructors, volumizers or body enhancers: Conditioners that contain protein or volumizers are called reconstructors. The protein coats the hair shaft and ends as well as fills in damaged areas to the outer cuticle, giving the appearance of thicker smoother hair. The effect is temporary so claims that they permanently strengthen the hair are untrue. These conditioners are helpful to use on thin or limp hair to give it more body and shine.
• Detanglers and manageability enhancers: These types of conditioners act to close the cuticle layer of the hair using acidifiers (low pH solutions of 2.5 to 3.5). Each strand of hair then resists becoming tangled in the other hairs. Acidifiers act to increase elasticity and bounciness of hair. These are good for people with “fly away” hair or more textured locks. Additionally, some conditioners may include thermal protectors in the form of polymers that distribute heat. This is important if you are someone who blow dries your hair to give added protection.